American Victory Museum

From Manila Bay to Tampa Bay: Seven Decades of American Victory

Floating behind the Florida Aquarium at 705 Channelside Drive in Tampa, FL. is the SS American Victory, the centerpiece of the American Victory Museum. The museum is a fully-operational, 72-year-old cargo ship whose crews served U.S. troops during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. American Victory continues to serve Tampa Bay as a museum, and an Armed Forces Memorial. The ship was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

The ship’s voyage from thirty years of war service to a historic preservation site reached a crescendo on September 23, 2003 when the steam turbine engines were restarted for the first time since 1985 and SS American Victory set sail for her first of many Relive History cruises. Over 400 Tampa residents cruised on American Victory’s decks to Skyway Bridge with a restored Navy T-38 Trojan fighter plane from 1949 as escort. After four years and four days of restoration totaling 80,000 donated volunteer hours from skilled engineers, electricians, welders, fabricators, paint and rust-remediation experts, and experience mariners, American Victory joined the small fleet of four WWII-era ships restored to working order.
And the restoration never ends. Almost one million volunteer hours since 1998 has gone into the continuing restoration of this small piece of American history. The ship’s history is obscure yet the story of the Victory ships and American war production during World War II includes the history of women in the work force, the mobilization of the Home Front, and America’s involvement in international humanitarian relief efforts. American Victory was built to participate in Operation Downfall, the land invasion of Japan called off after the Emperor’s surrender. The ship’s U.S. Merchant Marine crew spent the first five months after the war moving cargo around Southeast Asia with ports-of-call in Manila Bay (Philippines), the Port of Shanghai (China), and the Port of Calcutta (India) before making its way to New York City on Feb. 4th, 1946. The American Victory Museum is a U.S. military memorial with a particular focus on the 8,651 Merchant Mariners and 733 ships lost during WWII. The casualty rate for the U.S. Merchant Marine was one-in-24, the highest of any service.
Constructed in just 55 days at California Ship in San Pedro, CA, American Victory (Hull # 792) was named after American University in Washington, D.C. for the college’s contributions to the war efforts in the First World War and WWII. At this late point in the war in April/May 1945, over 90% of the workforce that built American Victory were women as most of the nation’s fighting-age men were deployed. ‘Rosie the Riveter’ and ‘Wanda the Welder’ became American icons utilized by U.S. Government to bolster factory employment numbers among American women of all races, ages, and economic classes. The Port of Tampa’s historical World War II production docks hired thousands of these ‘Rosies’ and ‘Wandas’ to build thousands of ships and submarines for the war effort (those docks can be seen from the port bow of the American Victory). Today, Rosie the Riveter has become a symbol of female empowerment and is a multi-generational American icon for women in the work place.
The work on American Victory continues today not just in the preservation of a 72-year-old cargo ship, but also as an educational resource and a center for historical research. The museum hosts several guided tours a week, including public, private, and charter schools K-12, and presents a platform for local university museum studies students to learn their craft.

Images

Re-Living History Cruise

Re-Living History Cruise

SS American Victory on a Re-Live History Cruise from 2010. The ship is one of only four functioning cargo ships from WWII. | Source: American Victory Museum View File Details Page

Dry Dock Visit 2016

Dry Dock Visit 2016

SS American Victory sits on her keel at the TampaShip dry dock in September 2016. The Coast Guard requires that the ship visit a dry dock twice every five years for inspection. TampaShip scraps the barnacles off the hull and provides a fresh coat of paint. The lightning blot was added to show the organization's support for Tampa Channelside neighbor Tampa Bay Lightning. | Creator: Charles Harris View File Details Page

Launching of SS American Victory

Launching of SS American Victory

SS American Victory is launched from the CalShip shipyard in San Pedro, California on May 24th, 1945 after just 55 days of construction. The ship was built to support Operation Downfall: the land invasion of Japan which does not happen because of the use of the atomic bombs. | Source: American Victory archive View File Details Page

Ship's Builder Plate

Ship's Builder Plate

Located on the boat deck on the bulkhead in front of the bandshell is builder ship plate of the SS American Victory. It shows where the ship was made, the hull number V-792, and the month and year the ship was delivered to the US Maritime Commission (June 1945). | Creator: Charles Harris View File Details Page

Radio Room

Radio Room

SS American Victory volunteer docent and lead radioman Don Berger sends messages via the ship's still-functioning radio. The American Victory Radio Club regularly sends and receives Morse Code messages from California. | Source: American Victory Museum View File Details Page

Armed Guard Quarters

Armed Guard Quarters

SS American Victory volunteer and lead welder Bob Stanley reinstalls 17 bunks in the Armed Guard Quarters at the rear of the ship. This room housed Naval sailors who manned the guns that protected the ship during World War II. Mr. Stanley was a large contributor to the organization's one million combined volunteer hours. | Source: American Victory Museum View File Details Page

Fourth of July American Victory Style!

Fourth of July American Victory Style!

The American Victory Museum is more than a historical resource and museum, it is also an event space and a prime location to enjoy some of Tampa's annual city traditions. Pictured here is the Downtown Tampa Fourth of July Fireworks display which is lit from a barge that sits off the port bow of the ship. Hundreds of guests enjoy food, drink and entertainment while they wait for the big show. The ship also hosts Halloween, Christmas, Veterans' Day, and Gasparilla events with front-row seats to many of Tampa's fireworks displays and boat parades. | Source: American Victory Museum View File Details Page

Booms and Cables

Booms and Cables

This photo shows a view from the port bow of SS American Victory focusing on the booms and cables of the ship's cargo-loading systems. The booms would extend over the pier, the cables would be lowered and attached to cargo, and those loads would be hoisted onto the ship by the booms and down into the cargo holds. These ships were deployed all over the world and needed a flexible loading system to unload their cargos in remote locations without pier facilities. | Creator: Charles Harris View File Details Page

Street Address:

705 Channelside Dr.
Tampa, FL 33602
[map]

Cite this Page:

Charles Harris and Grant Brus, “American Victory Museum,” Tampa Historical, accessed December 11, 2018, http://tampahistorical.org/items/show/39.

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